Sweet tradition

I'm talking about making doughnuts each fall with our family and friends.  It's a tradition we continue because it's a nice way to see friends before the holiday frenzy sets in and because it's our way of remembering and honoring Byron's mother.  It's her recipe -- The Kneller Doughnut Recipe -- that we make (and riff on) each year.  I can't really believe she has been gone from us for 16 years already. 

I've meant to post this recipe before now.  As you celebrate with your loved ones this season, maybe you can find a time to fit these in.  They'd be awesome for breakfast.

In any case, here's The Kneller Doughnut Recipe, including footnotes. This post is authored by the one who makes them every fall, my husband Byron.

This recipe is written in my mother’s handwriting in the back of her Betty Crocker New Picture Cookbook and credited to Mother Kneller (my dad’s mother). The title is "Our Doughnuts (Risen)."
It’s pretty much deep-fried brioche.
    1 1/2 cups warm milk with 2 tsp salt
    3/4 cup warm water
    2 tsp sugar
    2 pkg yeast
    3/4 cup sugar
    1/2 cup shortening
    4 beaten eggs 
    8 cups flour

There are few instructions. After the flour it says:
"Makes dough slightly soft and sticky–more flour may be needed."  Then all it says is:
"Let rise till double then punch down. Then roll out, cut and let rise again. Cook. Dip in syrup after cooked."

Mom’s doughnuts, my way
This is not the way Mom did it. But I don’t remember how she actually did it, and she’s not here to ask. So here’s my re-creation of the recipe. It’s pretty similar to the recipe printed in the New Picture Cookbook on page 124, so I’ve cribbed a lot of those directions.

First, I combine almost everything in the bowl of our KitchenAid stand mixer:
    1 1/2 cups whole milk (I microwave it for 1 minute to take the chill off)
    3/4 cup warm water[1]
    3/4 cup sugar
    4 eggs
    2 tsp salt
    4 cups all-purpose flour
    1/2 cup softened butter (I prefer this to shortening)
    Yeast (I prefer SAF Instant yeast, which you can add to dry ingredients. It’s also a little more potent than non-instant yeast, so I use a little less. 2 packages would be 4 1/2 teaspoons, so I use 3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon).

I mix the whole mess together with the…whatever the attachment is that’s not the whisk and not the dough hook.  Then I switch to the dough hook and add the rest of the flour (4 cups), plus enough extra flour to make it all come together in some kind of a ball.

Then I dump it out on a floured surface and knead it a little, adding just enough flour to make it workable. I put it in a greased bowl and cover it with plastic wrap and let it rise until it’s doubled in volume or so (maybe 1 1/2 hours).[2]

When we make doughnuts it’s for the doughnut party we do every fall, and I end up making several recipes. So I usually stagger the batches so they’re not all ready at once; I also sometimes let them do either their first or second rise outside if the weather’s good to slow things down a bit.
Then punch it down and let rise again (30 minutes more).

Roll it out to something like 1/2 to 1/3 of an inch. Cut doughnuts with a floured cutter (or use a glass for no holes, or cut them into squares for…square doughnuts).

Let them rise again (!) on a cookie sheet for 30–45 minutes until they’re fluffy, then fry them in 375ºF oil. Drain on newspapers or paper towels and glaze (recipe below) or shake with sugar and cinnamon in a paper bag.

    2 cups sugar
    1/2 cup margarine (again, I use butter)
    1/2 cup water
Boil 5 minutes and add 1 tsp vanilla

    1.    We subbed out the water for apple cider for a variation. Also added a couple of teaspoons of mixed cinnamon, cloves and something else and a cup or so of apple brandy-soaked raisins. Awesome. 
    2.    We made three batches this year for our doughnut party. The third batch got mixed at 12:30 PM or so and wasn’t rolled out till maybe 3; it didn’t get a second rise, really, and did just fine. Maybe even better than the other batches. 


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